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Jung_E - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2022

Sci-Fi, Drama, Action

Yeon Sang-ho

Kang Soo-yeon
Ryu Kyung-soo
Kim Hyun-joo
Lee Dong-hee
Han Woo-yeol

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Jung_E - Film Screenshot 1

Story: As the sea level continued to rise on Earth, humanity decided to plan its future living on space stations. However, three of these stations broke away from the others, formed an alliance and have been waging war against the rest ever since. A war heroine, who was able to hold her ground in numerous battles against the aggressors, is Yoon Jung-yi (Kim Hyun-joo). But then she fell in a battle that could have been war-deciding. She has been in a coma for thirty-five years now, and her daughter Yoon Seo-hyeon (Kang so-yeon) works as a scientist at the company Kronoid. She copied her mother's brain, and Kronoid tries to create an AI with it that would be undefeatable in battle. In the simulations, the AI constantly fails at exactly the same moment, though. The team is not sure why, but Yoon's boss Sang-hoon (Ryu Kyung-so) is confident that the problem can still be fixed, and he continues to focus on raising more funds for the project. For Yoon, however, it's a personal matter to turn the project into a success. It is her chance to make her mother immortal. But even though she has a replica of her mother, who is not aware of the fact that she is an AI, the scientist does not have the courage to ask her the questions that weigh heavy on her conscience...

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Review: Probably no one will argue the fact that Korea isn't exactly known for extraordinarily good science fiction movies. "Space Sweepers", also a Netflix production, was the most ambitious attempt so far, which might even have gone into the right direction if you were to put your focus on Marvel-like entertainment. But that flick was just as unconvincing as "Jung_E" is. It's almost as if Korean filmmakers just want to make science fiction movies at any cost, without knowing what the genre's strengths are: questions about our future, about life and what it entails, and all the other philosophical questions that go with it. The genre offers a lot of room for thought experiments, and therefore it should be able to work quite well on a dramatic level. "Jung_E" actually seems to attempt this, but fails because the characters are flat and the focus was almost entirely put on visual aspects.

Jung_E - Film Screenshot 5

In addition, the world created in this sci-fi flick will merely make genre fans smile wearily. It is not a crime, maybe even a must, to draw inspiration from Isaac Asimov, but if all ideas are actually just recycled and there are no original thoughts whatsoever, it's just tragic and doesn't bode well for the further course of the story. All you get is a rehash of "I, Robot" as well as "Elysium". In addition, there is a long prologue that is supposed to give us an understanding of the world, but the writers decide to beat us round the head with the information once again during a presentation later on. So, who is the target audience here? Seemingly, not genre lovers. But for newbies, the flick is much too cold. This is all the more surprising as the story actually revolves around the revival of a mother-child relationship and the theme of redemption. An emotional story that is shockingly unemotional, apart from a few overdramatic scenes that therefore seem all the more out-of-place.

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"Jung_E" also has problems with its identity. Because of its action-packed introduction, you think that you'll at least get an exciting middle section and a spectacular finale later on. But the story instantly shifts its focus on the scientist Seo-hyeon. This is irritating simply because you would/should assume that Jung-yi is the protagonist. Or at least, that she plays a much bigger role than she actually does here. Since there is hardly any interaction between Seo-hyeon and her mother, the drama sadly does not work at all either. In addition, actress Kang Soo-yeon, who sadly died shortly after shooting the movie, which is why it is dedicated to her, is hardly allowed to show any of her talents. It's a proven fact that Kang is a great actress, having already won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival in 1986 for her role in Im Kwon-taek's "The Surrogate Woman". After her long break, however, she is only allowed to play a very introverted person here, so that her few (very strong) emotional outbursts hardly fit the character.

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So the script doesn't know in which direction it wants to go with either story or characters. What's really annoying, though, is Sang-hoon, who is supposed to be something like the unpredictable villain but also represents the comic relief. Which doesn't work out at all. Since there is no real common theme - and after a while there is even a turn of events, which also makes the focus on the war lose its importance -, you feel quite disoriented all the time. The characters are supposed to keep us grounded in the story, but as mentioned before, they are unable to do that. Unfortunately, the finale cannot make up for it either. Even though, there is some action, it is by no means as epic as you would have wished for after the introduction, and above all, it does not touch us emotionally. What's left is the science fiction world with some (copied) ideas, such as the fact that you can transfer your brain into a new body - depending on your financial possibilities, perhaps even without restrictions concerning your rights...

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At least from a visual point of view, the world of "Jung_E" is quite convincing. The effects are pretty nice, but somehow the images often seem as if everything took place in front of a digital screen. The numerous coldly furnished small rooms also create a claustrophobic atmosphere, which, unfortunately, is not turned into the flick's strength, and so what's left is the already mentioned emotional distance to the events. If you then find out that director Yeon Sang-ho ("Train to Busan", "Hellbound") is responsible for the movie, the disappointment is perfect. After almost 100 minutes, you feel as if you only got a glimpse into a perhaps interesting world, which might work if what you got to see here was only the prelude to a trilogy or something like that. But you simply cannot warm up to that idea as "Jung_E" does not manage to create any interest in its characters. No matter how you look at it, "Jung_E" is simply another science fiction flick to steer clear of.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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